TRIBUTE: Ridgefield Firefighter Michael McLaughlin was 51 when he answered his final alarm: While operating the tower ladder at a two-alarm blaze in 1996, the 10-year department veteran suffered a fatal heart attack.
Loved ones, colleagues and grateful citizens proudly carry McLaughlin's memory – and now the children’s section of the borough library carries his name.
McLaughlin’s death “was a huge blow to the department,” Fire Chief Michael Kees said at a dedication ceremony Monday night. “Mike was the guy everyone looked up to and was always glad to have around."
Kees and McLaughlin’s son, Kevin, came up with the idea.
One of his father’s greatest pleasures, his son said, was educating children about firefighting. He looked forward to their firehouse tours and loved the youngsters' reactions.
Firefighters were joined at the intimate library ceremony Monday by their responder colleagues with the Ridgefield Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the mayor and council and McLaughlin’s family, including his wife, Beverly.
“I was just a young kid when Mike passed away,” Battalion Chief David Brierty said, “but growing up in the firehouse I knew how much of a role model he was to all the guys and what a tremendous loss his death was.
“He will always have a special place in our hearts.”
McLaughlin was the sixth department member to die in the line of duty. Five were killed by an infamous 1967 arson blaze at the Cardinal Lanes bowling alley on Anderson Avenue.
He passed away at the hospital after going into cardiac arrest while battling a Bergen Boulevard laundromat fire on Feb. 11, 1996.
McLaughlin was "a firemen’s fireman -- always looking after the guys, the apparatus and the equipment,” Kees said. “He was never afraid to get down and do hard work.
“But he also had a soft side when young kids would show up at the firehouse for a tour.”
That’s what made the library dedication so fitting, the chief said.
Equally fitting, others said, was that McLaughlin’s grandson Kevin hung the plaque.
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